I've written a few magazine stories for others but this is only the second time I've written a client's book length memoir. The greatest difficulty? Finding the person's voice, letting their personality, and not mine, shine through the words. Sandra is funny and direct with a dollop of quirky. And her story is unusual. She stayed in a loveless marriage far longer than anyone would expect. She and husband Ernie fell in love in their fifties. (They married at eighteen.)
Sandra couldn't tell me why she stayed with Ernie. She didn't know. As her writer, it was my job to find out - I've always loved detective work - so with lots of prodding questions, I made her talk . . . fortunately, talking is one of her favourite activities.
I dug through Sandra's life until I found out why she stayed with a man who didn't love or want her. I dug all the way to Germany, the land of Sandra's birth. There, the answer became as obvious as a coffee stain on a white blouse. Sandra's parents were part of a child immigration program. Both were forcibly removed from their Ukrainian families - Walter at 14, Martha 12 - and sent to Germany to become farm workers.
Sandra developed, or inherited, probably a little of both, a steely determination to cope with adverse circumstances..
Giving up isn't in Sandra's genes. (Until I met Sandra, I'd never heard of the thousands of abducted Polish and Ukrainian teenagers that were sent to Germany. I know a lot about the British Child Immigration plan and write about it at: http:littleimmigrants.wordpress.com)
As much as I tried to maintain Sandra's voice, I couldn't resist channeling some of my thoughts through her. I saw the hardships of Sandra's parents, and they were many, through a different lens than she did. Their trust in God and determination to overcome gave them an indomitable spirit, which they passed on to Sandra.
Sandra and I had many sessions in my living room. For hours, she talked while I tapped on my laptop. The result? Sandra's story of late love is a message of hope to all couples, even those with semi well-functioning marriages.
The book is on target for publication in late Fall. Stay tuned for more details . . . .